I'll say it up front for clarity-sake, I liked Jaffe's book, especially the case studies and the section on partnerships. I bought the book last year before my vacation so I could have the time to read and digest it. I also liked Jaffe's writing style -- easy and (dare I say?) conversational.
Rather than doing a chapter by chapter review, which many have already done or are in the process of doing, I will build on its premise and touch on a couple of highlights.
[In case you think of asking, no I am not one of the faces on the cover.]
A few notes on the premise
Ninety percent of advertising is crap (as quoted from Lee Clow) -- that's because ninety percent of advertising is created by committee without a reality check. Very few companies test creative and even fewer take a leap of faith on behalf of their audiences. And in this light the two distinctions:
Communication -- the very distinct process of marketer-generated or -initiated messaging, often without any concern or consideration for the intended recipient. It's one way, unidirectional, and carefully controlled in its implementation.
Conversation -- a two-way dialogue or a stream messaging between two or more parties with like-minded or shared beliefs, wants, needs, passions, or interests. It's organic, nonlinear, unpredictable and natural.
Communication got that way because there is no feedback loop in organizations and no testing or research to find out what people are concerned about. Not anymore and certainly not these days. Budget cuts, skeleton staffing issues, and the excuse of needing to move fast all have contributed to this state of affairs. Do you see a trend here?
Is it Either/Or or And/And?
So my question to you all is -- is conversation, and social media, supposed to fix the void left by lack of commitment to adequate promotions budgets, research, staffing, product support for the intended marketplace, development, distribution network, and on and on? Is it?
Conversation is great if you've covered your basics. If you're watering your garden, but have not planted enough bulbs because you've cut back, should you expect that watering extra hard will grow the same number of plants as last year? Of course not, but you may find some extra weeds.
Covering your basics is the wellspring of conversation because if you've not gotten your basics covered, you've got nothing to talk about. Traditional marketing isn't broken if it's done right. Skipping a well thought out, integrated marketing strategy in favor of applying any kind of mantra -- whether that be conversation or social media -- is a recipe for failure.
The Tot 3 Priorities of CEOs are Also Mine
Jaffe concludes the chapter that sets the tone to the rest of the book with the finding of a 2004 study by the Association of National Advertisers. I might be in a minority, but the top 3 for CEOs are also mine:
- Creating sustainable competitive differentiation and advantage
- Maintaining corporate growth
- Staying close to the company's customers
Let's start by creating products and services the market wants and needs -- outside-in vs. inside-out conversations with the marketplace that lead to connections. Let's decide to fund and not starve our growth initiatives with laser focus and commitment. Customer service is everyone's business, especially that of marketing and public relations.
If you promise to do that, the rest of the book will give you some good ideas on how to build on your basics in this new age of empowered consumers.
- Marketing is not a formula, and certainly not one that deals in the commoditized and oversimplified 4 Ps -- Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. Say hello to the six Cs -- Content. Commerce, Community, Context (I just dug a bit deeper on context in viral marketing), Customization, and Conversation. Let' not forget the customer, too.
- Challenges for companies -- talent, culture, metrics. Systems should serve the people they were created to serve, not the other way around. When was the last time conversation was productive in your organization? Can you hope to do outside what you cannot do with each other?
- Brands today are the community that keeps them -- reputation is vital and very visible.
- Partnership is about access -- I say give access to your full employee base with care-and-share vs. command-and-control. Your first community is right there, inside your organization. Why not listen? Why not pay attention?
- Unless you're Neil Armstrong, you're not going to achieve exponential results by taking incremental steps. When you're ready to experiment, use social media yourself and work with people who do it -- nothing teaches you what it feels like to participate like participation itself.
I said before that companies (and the people inside them) have been used to creating the conversation, not joining one already created about them. Be prepared to make mistakes and remember that if you're not making any, you're playing it too safe to change the game. The companies that will succeed tomorrow, are not afraid to put skin in the game, are you?